Why It's Okay Your Band Isn't Playing FPSF '15
Jaqui Kill (right), the Bad Drugs' resident throat, says the local garage-punks are over stressing about an FPSF nod.
Photo courtesy of The Bad Drugs
So, your band isn't listed among the many invited to play Free Press Summer Fest 2015. Is there anything that could conceivably comfort the gnawing ache in your spurned bones? Well, for starters, just remember that Run the Jewels, Lana Del Rey, Beck and Drake won't be playing, either.
In all seriousness, being called to perform at FPSF is indeed a huge honor for Houston-area bands. And the sting of not being invited sometimes needs a salve to remind you that being passed over doesn't mean you need to rush all your equipment over to Action Pawn.
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THE WEATHER That's right, not getting an invite means your band won't be unloading, performing and breaking down in the sweltering discomfort of Houston on the bayou in early June.
"Playing outside in HTX summer is an invaluable experience in its own awful way," laughs Kill, the fierce lead vocalist for the Bad Drugs, which she formed with guitarist Ryan Kelly in 2011. "After you have played outside in HTX summer you can play anywhere."
She says the Drugs' brand of proto-punk has yet to garner an invite to the festival, but that she sees the appeal of being asked to play, scorching heat notwithstanding.
"I think it looks good on your 'band resume,'" she offers. "It's also a really good networking opportunity and of course, exposes your band to new people."
THERE'S A WORLD OUTSIDE OF HOUSTON I know, I also found this hard to believe, but there are other places where people enjoy live music. Ricky Dee, he of the psych-rock guitar, Lizard King vocals and rock-star mane, reminds us that not playing the fest means an open calendar date to book elsewhere.
"Yeah, it's a potentially great gig but there's plenty of other opportunities around," he agrees.
To prove the point, he shared Ganesha's approaching tour dates, their first outside the state. Following a spot at Last Concert Café at For the Community 9 and opening for One-Eyed Doll at Scout Bar on March 18, they'll head west for shows in California the week of 4/20.
"What else can Houston bands do to broaden their audience?", he says. "Get product out there, stay productive, travel around Texas, get out of Texas, go west, go east. Just never plateau. If you're going to expect this to be easy and get lazy you might as well keep your day job."
MAYBE FPSF IS NOT THE RIGHT FIT Kill has watched the event grow from humble beginnings. Like other observers, she's noticed that growth has determined that some acts and genres just don't fit FPSF's current mold anymore. And, she adds, bands should be okay with that.
So, take a lesson from a self-assured badass, kids, and see if this applies to your act.
"A few years ago I felt like it was a more valuable experience for us than now, when it's really blown up," Kill says. "I think for some kinds of music it can be really valuable exposure to be in a sea of music within a sea of people. For us I don't really think it would be a good fit. We do much better when we are in with our community.
"College kids from the town over who really love Snoop Dogg aren't really our audience," she explains. "If what we are playing ever becomes on trend, bring it on, but right now we have more of an underground vibe that doesn't belong where FPSF has grown to.
"It is kind of an alien thing to me overall," Kill says. "We have this huge music festival here in Houston and although we are local artists who love our city, I just don't feel like it has much to do with us."
Story continues on the next page.
Photo courtesy of Ganesha
DON'T OVERESTIMATE THE EXPOSURE YOU GET FROM PLAYING FPSF "I think it could be a great gig to play just for the sheer amount of people that are attending with open ears, as well as playing with a lot of 'big-name' acts and scooping up new crowds that you wouldn't get at your regular weekend gig," Ricky Dee says of the fest.
Exposure. That's the primary reason to want to play the festival. But if we're being honest, we have to recognize that most local acts generally get to open the days' events with noon-hour sets that are sparsely attended. And, as far as I know, no local bands have been signed by rubbing elbows with Weezer (but, who knows? Maybe they'll help discover a band this year, just four short years removed from their last FPSF set here.
A more certain way to share your band's current triumphs might be to volunteer thoughts for a blog like this. For instance:
"We just finished recording our album, Downer, at King Benny Productions and mastering at 226 Recordings in the Heights," Dee says of the new work he, bassist Noe Kimes and drummer Sammy Reyna are releasing. "We plan on releasing the full length album in early April on Visionary Noise at several release shows. Houston is such a large city that we think just one LP release show isn't enough. Also, we just wanna jam and celebrate an album that has been a long time in the making as much as we can, with as many people as we can."
Meanwhile, Kill has some exciting band news of her own.
"Right now we are finishing up our first full-length," she says. "It's been a lot of work and we have had some setbacks, but I finally feel like we are in the clear and almost finished. We have David DeSoto [formerly of Gnar World Order] playing rhythm guitar for us now. I really love having him with us. His sound is a little more crunchy and noisy and that's more our original sound.
"I kind of feel like we went though a phase where things were getting a little too mechanical and polished," continues Kill. "Keeping it raw and edgy is the original sound we are known for. I don't want to lose that, and David really has given that back to us with his attitude and playing style.
"We are gearing up to start gigging more regularly," she says. "We have some March dates. On the 14th we will be in San Antonio, the 21st we'll be in Beaumont and the 24th we will be here in Houston at Rudyard's supporting Thelma and the Sleaze from Nashville."
DON'T HATE; APPRECIATE "I'm happy some of the bands with a more on-trend sound can get something out of it in a pretty big kind of way," Kill says.
One thing she, Dee and most informed music followers agree upon is FPSF is good for the Houston music scene and the city as a whole. Recently, event co-founder Omar Afra opened up about the value the city leadership places on the event and the measures it's taken to foster its success.
That's the sort of lead the Houston music scene needs to follow. It's okay to grumble if your favorite band wasn't booked this year. It's expected, in fact. It's fine to wish your band had been booked. But, come June, the hope is we'll be out there supporting the local bands who did get the call and adding to festival's ongoing story.
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